February 24, 2021
When it comes to anti-aging ingredients, retinol is the holy grail. Being one of the few potent anti-aging ingredients that is widely recognized and studied by both the dermatological and scientific communities, retinol works by literally augmenting the biology of the skin, and activating collagen, elastin and epidermal growth factor receptors, thereby reducing wrinkles and scarring, lightening hyperpigmentation, brightening skin, smoothing skin texture, firming skin, tightening pores, and improving and slowing down other signs of aging. It is also an excellent ingredient to combat acne. In short, Retinol literally tells skin cells to make younger functioning cells!
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Being such a potent ingredient, there are unfortunately plenty of false information floating around. To set the record straight, let's debunk some of the myths!
While retinol is a vitamin A derivative, they simply do not provide the same results.
The form of vitamin A used by the skin is called retinoic acid. Prescription formulas like tretinoin contain retinoic acid, and while it is very potent, it can be irritating. Retinol is a pre-cursor of retinoic acid, and when applied to the skin, converts into retinoic acid. This process means it may take slightly longer to see results than say tretinoin, but is gentler on the skin. In the end, both retinoic acid and retinol provide the same skin care benefits.
There are other derivates like retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate, but their process of converting into retinoic acid, the form that the skin can actually use, takes even longer, which mitigates their efficiency.
What about plant extracts that contain vitamin A? Again, for the skin to actually benefit from it, the vitamin A needs to be converted into retinoic acid, and this form takes even longer than derivatives like retinyl palmitate, so its effects are much, much weaker than retinol.
Retinol stimulates and regulates cell turnover, so the natural process of shredding old, dead cells, which tends to slow down with age, will normalize, yet without weakening the epidermis. In fact, because it signals the basal cell layer of the epidermis to produce more young, new cells, and activates the epidermal growth factor receptors, and collagen and elastin synthesis, it has been shown to reduce collagen breakdown, and strengthen and thicken the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin), as well as the dermis (the deeper layer where the collagen and elastin is). Wrinkles and fines lines are thereby smoothed, and skin is lifted and firmed.
While retinol is a potent ingredient, whether it causes a reaction for someone with sensitive skin depends on the form of retinol used, and the product formula. With technological advances in recent years, retinol can now come in an encapsulated form. Encapsulating retinol cuts down exposure to air and light, meaning it is delivered to skin in a "protected" capacity on a microscopic level so it remains stable and potent for longer. The encapsulated formula also slowly time releases the active ingredient into the skin, making it gentle yet still potent.
In addition, if the overall formula is at a skin-friendly pH, and is enriched with soothing ingredients, such as aloe vera leaf juice, squalane, and oils, sensitive skin can also use Retinol without major concern. Just start using it at a low frequency, then slowly build up.
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Not only can retinol be used around the eyes, it should really be used. The skin around the eyes is approximately one-tenth the thickness of the skin on the rest of the face, so wrinkles and fine lines naturally appear around there first. Studies have shown that people who apply retinol around the eye area get great results. Just be mindful not to put too much, as the skin is thin here and therefore will absorb ingredients more than the rest of the face.
Yes and no. As retinol regulates cell turnover whilst acting as an anti-inflammatory, certain skin conditions, such as acne, whiteheads, blackheads, closed comedones, clogged pores, and hyperpigmentation, can see result rather quickly. On the other hand, it is not a magic potion from Harry Potter——the truth is, except for hydrating products, any product that claims to provide the skin with immediate transformative results within 7 days is always a marketing gimmick, as the biology of skin simply does not work like that. Retinol smoothes wrinkles, firms skin, and fades age spots by fundamentally augmenting the biology of the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin production, subsequently thickening the epidermis and dermis, which means it will take time, but the results will be significant and long-lasting.
Most studies use 12 weeks to half a year as a cutoff point to evaluate significant changes. A 30ml product typically lasts two to three months, so with a retinol product, it's best to use at least two bottles, so that its anti-aging effects have a chance to really become visible.
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